On Wednesday, May 1, Aim High hosted its first ever Marin Benefit. More than 140 donors, educators, trustees, alumni and their families gathered to commemorate Aim High’s work in San Rafael and celebrate our upcoming campus launch in Novato this summer.

The Marin Benefit honored the inspiring recent graduate, Evelyn Santa Rosa; dedicated educator, Karla Garcia; and former trustee and longtime supporter, Patrick Tenney. The event  raised enough funds to welcome 100 new students to the program this summer. Thank you to everyone who made our Marin Benefit possible and memorable.

We invite you to relish in the magic of the evening by reading the inspiring speech of our Youth of the Year, Evelyn Santa Rosa, below, and checking out some photos from the event.

Evelyn Santa Rosa

My parents emigrated from Mexico City to San Rafael so they could provide me with an opportunity they didn’t have; a better life and an education past high school.

My mom and dad work really hard. My mom is a housekeeper and my dad works at a recycling center. Growing up, my mom reminded me how important education is. She always said, “I don’t like cleaning kitchens. If I had gone to college, I would’ve become a nurse so I could help others.” I know that attending college is important and is my parents’ dream for me. As the oldest daughter of two, I aim to be the first in my family to graduate from college. An education will give me the opportunity to one day have a career that I love.

I am grateful that my parents sacrificed the comfort of their home country so that I could have a better life. Their courage fuels me to do well in school. I am a curious person who enjoys learning more about the world and how things work. But, in a traditional classroom, I didn’t have close relationships with my teachers; I found myself too lost and scared to raise my hand. I didn’t want to be judged.

Summers were equally isolating. If I could describe my summers in two words they would be, “So. Boring.” I spent the majority of my time doing chores around the house, caring for my cousin and little sister, and watching every YouTube video that I could find. Despite the friendship bracelets and tons of other DIY projects I made thanks to Youtube, I was still bored. Parks were far away from my house, so I spent the majority of time indoors away from opportunities where I could play with other kids or exercise.

All of this changed when I entered the doors of Aim High. Suddenly, summer became something I actually looked forward to! I found a place where my true personality could shine through! I was surrounded by a supportive staff who cared about me as a student and as a young person. It was clear to me that you could both learn and have fun at the same time. I’ve always been curious and responsible, but Aim High helped me embrace these natural characteristics in me. In the classroom, when I wanted to raise my hand, I did. I didn’t feel scared. And I no longer hid my true curiosity. This time, when I had a question about the plague or Shakespeare or feminism, or genetics, I asked it. My teachers supported me and encouraged my curiosity of the world.

Aside from gaining confidence in the classroom, Aim High gave me opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have. Aim High has made me more interesting! When my friends ask me what I did this summer, I no longer have to say, “nothing.” I tell them I visited Google and the Exploratorium. I toured the campuses of UC Berkeley and USF. I even received valuable advice about high school from a high school-aged teaching intern who is now one of my best friends, and you heard from him earlier this evening! (Hi Allan!) At Aim High, I discovered my passion for singing. I never even knew I could sing until I signed up for the afternoon singing activity at Aim High. From there, I knew it would be a big part of my life. Today, singing is my creative outlet. When I’m feeling down, I find a quiet space where I can sing to myself. And, singing at Aim High encouraged me to sign up for my high school jazz choir—and guess what?! I didn’t even know I liked jazz!

I spent three summers at Aim High and graduated last year. I am now in my freshman year at San Rafael High School getting good grades, asking questions and participating in extracurriculars that bring me joy.

I stand before you tonight as a confident student who is poised to be the first in her family to not only graduate high school, but to attend college, too. My dreams are limitless. I’m interested in genetics. I think about becoming a detective. In college, I hope to join the orchestra and also continue singing. I was a curious person before Aim High, but today I am motivated to see that curiosity through; to ask questions and learn more. I am inspired to continue making my parents proud. Thanks to Aim High, I have found my voice, I have embraced my curiosity, and I have seized the opportunities that my parents envisioned for me.

Thank you for this wonderful honor.

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